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renderings of ala wai harbor design
(Photo credit: UHCDC)

A University of Hawaiʻi Community Design Center (UHCDC) reimagined Ala Wai Harbor project that addresses the harbor’s everyday functions while ensuring adaptability to long-term sea-level rise was honored with the Hawaiʻi Chapter of the American Planning Association’s Urban Design Award.

The project was led by Principal Investigator Phoebe White, an assistant professor of landscape architecture in the School of Architecture, and Co-Principal Investigator Priyam Das, chair and associate professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning housed in the College of Social Sciences.

people holding an award

“We are honored that the Urban Design Award recognized our concept, which envisions the harbor as a vibrant and resilient public space that considers the projected impacts of sea level rise and respects its past. We are excited that the project will guide the future RFP [request for proposals] for the harbor,” said White and Das.

Features of the project

The project features a multi-modal promenade, wayfinding elements, watercraft amenities, mixed-use spaces and public comfort stations. Adaptive strategies include diverse plants to filter stormwater runoff, living shorelines, elevated structures to mitigate the impacts of sea-level rise, and a living seawall that doubles as seating and protection for the harbor’s edge.

The comprehensive plan also includes features like small watercraft storage, boaters’ markets, cafés, surf community centers, and educational marshes for habitat restoration and sea-level rise adaptation.

The collaborative effort between the School of Architecture and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning has been facilitated by UHCDC, which actively supports university-community partnerships for the implementation of public interest projects. The Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor project has played a crucial role in providing applied learning, leadership and mentorship opportunities for students and young professionals, effectively connecting education with community-oriented projects.

The project was commissioned by the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.

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